Solidarity Movement Newsletter #3

The third issue of the Solidarity Movement newsletter has been published.

Issue #3 features: a report on the strike by John Deere workers in the US who won wage and pension increases and defeated the company plan to take away defined benefit pensions from new hires; highlights from the first Local 222 paper, the War Worker, in 1943; a call for the Local to provide more information and involvement by supplier workers in negotiations for their first contracts; and a commentary on the abandonment of the principle of equal pay for equal work when the union agrees to 4% payments for some workers and not others.

From the article:

As 2nd tier workers again feel the sting of being left behind we should ask, ‘What has happened to our union?’ Has our leadership learned to accept management’s perspective so well they forgot the workers perspective?

Equal pay for equal work. Period. This is a fundamental union value and helps to build solidarity and strength within the union. Anything less and we allow the company to divide and destroy us. The membership needs to get the union leadership back in line.

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GM Should Hire Displaced Workers

UPDATED MAY 31, 2022

  • May 31, 2021 – Letter to Mary Barra (GM CEO) and Scott Bell (GM Canada President signed by four members of Local 222.
  • June 8, 2021 – GM’s response sent to the four members and to the Solidarity Movement email address.
  • June 11, 2021 – Solidarity Not Slander – A response to attacks on the members who sent the letter.

Solidarity Movement Letter to Mary Barra and Scott Bell

When GM ended vehicle production in Oshawa on December 18, 2019 it meant the elimination of 5,000 jobs. Some senior GM employees were eligible for full pensions plus an incentive. Junior GM workers, especially tier two workers and TPTs were eligible for much less. Most of the over 2,000 supplier workers had no options and received the statutory minimum or slightly more. Now that GM is restarting pickup truck assembly they have announced that they will hire 1,500 assembly workers. This letter was sent to General Motors on May 31, 2021 urging GM to offer the new jobs to the workers they displaced in 2019:

May 31, 2021

Sent via Email

Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO, General Motors Company

Scott Bell, President and Managing Director, General Motors Canada

RE: The hiring of displaced workers, including supplier and support workers at the GM Oshawa Assembly Plant

This email was sent to Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors Company, and Scott Bell, President of General Motors Canada on May 31, 2021 by four Local 222 members of the Solidarity Movement

As members of Unifor Local 222 and the Oshawa community we believe that it is a matter of justice that General Motors Canada offer employment on a priority basis to displaced autoworkers, including supplier workers.

GM alone decided to close the Oshawa plant, a decision that was made to serve only the interest of the company, despite the pleadings of workers, politicians, and Canadians across the country. While it is true that some high seniority GM workers may have left with a well earned pension and severance package, thousands of others directly impacted by your decision did not.

Over 80% of supplier and service workers were not eligible for any pension and left jobs whose wages didn’t provide enough to have savings to cushion the blow of lost employment. Also negatively affected by the closure were 400 workers in the second tier wage progression (many who were full-time temps for years before getting hired as seniority employees), 500 TPTs (many that were full time), and hundreds of other workers who were forced to abandon good wages and pensions when GM ended vehicle production.

Many workers severed their employment relationship with GM because they felt they had no choice. GM was only offering to maintain 300 jobs in Oshawa. They accepted as true what you told them – that GM was ending vehicle assembly. It was impossible for them to know that less than a year later GM would announce the return of the highly profitable Sierra and Silverado pickup trucks.

Supply chain workers at companies like CEVA, Syncreon, Lear, Inteva, and others, were not even given a choice in the decision to sever. They had their lives turned upside down through no fault of their own.

Now General Motors will hire 1500 assembly workers for the new pickup truck operation. GM, you have the ability to hire the workers whose work contributed to your profits over the years, including the workers from the supplier and service companies that were the hardest hit by GM’s decision to end operations in Oshawa.

This request is not without precedent. GM has previously offered jobs to workers affected by plant closure in our community. In the case of the Acsys closure, GM agreed to employ nearly every Acsys worker. In this case, GM is solely responsible for the loss of jobs and livelihood. GM may not have a contractual or legal obligation to rehire the workers they displaced, but GM certainly has a moral obligation to mitigate the harm they have caused.

We want to remind you that Canadians value loyalty and fairness. We are asking you to commit to hiring all displaced autoworkers, including the supplier workers, and requiring any company you contract with to do the same. This would be a small step towards repairing your relationship with the community.

These workers deserve the opportunity to put food on the table, look after their families, pay their rent, and get back to work.

We look forward to your reply.

On behalf of the Local 222 Solidarity Movement,

Rebecca Keetch, Vic McCullough, Chris White, Tony Leah

Original letter:

GM of Canada Response to the May 31, 2021 Letter

Solidarity Not Slander

Solidarity Not Slander – Leaflet published June 11, 2021.

On Monday May 31, 2021 we sent a letter to GM asking them to hire the auto workers and supply workers that GM displaced in 2019. This is basic union solidarity – we should be supporting workers who paid dues to Local 222 for years. Unbelievably, instead of supporting displaced workers, some people have been attacking us for sending the letter. We have been accused of misrepresenting ourselves and even forging signatures.

There have been all sorts of rumours circulating and lots of anger and confusion to go along with them. The main rumour seems to be that GM froze or canceled the agreement to allow workers in CCA to move to Truck as reprisal for the letter we sent. Frankly, this makes no sense.

But let’s unpack it…

  • The Local 222 ratification brochure stated ( that “…all employee movement to the Oshawa Assembly Plant will be restricted for the life of the collective agreement unless otherwise agreed between the parties through mutual agreement.” But also that “…We have already moved this needle forward and have agreements to allow employees from CCA and the plant to transfer through mutual agreement subject to the eligibility criteria.”
  • The March 18 GM Shop Committee update reported that “The Union has successfully secured movement to Truck which far exceeds what was originally negotiated. Members will be able to canvass/post to preferred and non-preferred jobs. In the weeks ahead we will begin canvassing for critical positions…”
  • Jason Gale’s Summer Oshaworker article reports that “With the first round of production job canvassing completed, we will focus on the second round of production job canvassing…”

Clearly Unifor and GM have an agreement regarding the movement of people from CCA to Truck. How could a letter from a laid off worker and some retirees that respectfully asks GM to hire displaced workers derail the agreement? The Shop Committee should be able to defend the agreement they made.

We identified ourselves as ‘members of Local 222 and the Oshawa community’. We signed the letter on behalf of the Local 222 Solidarity Movement and sent it from the Solidarity Movement email account. We cc’d the GM Plant Chair and Local 222 President as a courtesy. We were being transparent, not going behind their backs. We have nothing to hide.

We have been told that some union leadership have been claiming we forged the names of the GM Plant Chair and Local President on the letter. The email is reproduced on the back of this flyer in its entirety. You can clearly see who the signatories are and who is only cc’d. At NO time did we misrepresent ourselves as elected leadership and we did NOT forge any signatures. We did not send multiple emails. If there are people in our union leadership who don’t know what a ‘cc’ is on an email we hope they aren’t negotiating contracts. Contract language is a lot tougher to understand.

Forgery and misrepresentation are serious offenses – those people who are making these vicious accusations should retract these lies and apologize. We are sickened and furious with this slander, which has led to threats, calls for termination, and banishment from worker communication groups.

Anyone who attends union meetings or follows social media will know that we are not afraid to voice our opinions publicly. We clearly signed our own names to this email. Can anyone really believe we would be stupid enough to forge signatures? We would never do something so reckless, wrong, and illegal.

We want to be clear, we stand by our letter. Fighting for the displaced workers is what solidarity demands. Members that were in the wage progression, full-time TPTs, supplier workers, mid-seniority traditional employees were all dues paying members of Local 222. They deserve to be fought for.

Honest debate is healthy and promotes solidarity. False accusations and slanders against people you disagree with does not. Who actually benefits from the slander? It’s not us and it certainly isn’t the membership. Seven months after the collective agreement was ratified, the membership should be able to see the actual language and MOU’s that have been negotiated. At the very least, there should be GM unit meetings where the membership can receive updates from our elected leadership and discuss issues openly.

In solidarity,

Rebecca Keetch, Vic McCullough, Chris White, Tony Leah.